For most people, quitting tobacco is hard. So hard in fact, that it takes the average smoker 8 attempts before quitting for good. Why is it so hard? The nicotine found in tobacco products is highly addictive which means that when you stop using it, your brain misses it and sends physical signals to your body that make you want to have it again. Have you tried to quit before and found that the urges and cravings to smoke or chew tobacco were just too strong to stay quit? Have you put off quitting before because you couldn’t imagine being able to go without using tobacco? Quit medications are designed to help make it easier to resist the urge to use tobacco after you quit, and when used correctly, can actually double your chances of quitting for good.
There are 7 types of quit medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for quitting tobacco. When used properly they are safe and effective. Let’s start with those that have nicotine in them.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
There are 5 different kinds of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). Each of these contains a certain amount of nicotine to help gradually reduce your dependence on the nicotine you were getting from smoking or chewing. They include:
- Nicotine Patch: Worn like a band aid and delivers nicotine through the skin.
- Nicotine Gum: Similar to chewing gum, but contains nicotine.
- Nicotine Lozenge: Similar to a sore throat lozenge, but contains nicotine.
- Nicotine Inhaler: A device you “puff on” that delivers nicotine into the mouth, but is not inhaled.
- Nicotine Nasal Spray: Similar to a cold nasal spray, but contains nicotine.
If you choose to use NRT, studies have shown that using two in combination is more effective than using just one. When using two kinds of NRT at one time, one should always be the patch. The second type can be the gum, lozenge, inhaler, or spray. While the patch delivers a steady dose of nicotine, the other one can help you get through especially difficult cravings by delivering an on-the-spot dose of nicotine.
You might be asking yourself, “Why would I want to put nicotine into my body when I am trying to get OFF nicotine?” The answer is that these medicines give you less nicotine than you get from smoking or chewing tobacco. The nicotine keeps you using tobacco, and the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke causes the health problems.
NRT products like the patch and gum contain just enough nicotine to help you slowly wean off your addiction and eventually give it up all together.
Quit Medications without Nicotine
There are two medications without nicotine. These are Bupropion SR, also sold as Zyban® and Wellbutrin®, and Varenicline which is sold as Chantix®. You will need a prescription from your doctor to get these medications. Varenicline is the newer of the two and many people have found this quit medication to be very helpful.
Both of these medications have been around for years and your doctor can help you determine if either one is a good fit for you. Both have been linked to changes in mood which have included aggression, irritability, and thoughts of suicide. Neither has been proven to cause these side effects and they occur infrequently. If you experience any side-effects while using these medications, you should report them to your doctor immediately.